January 18, 2012

"I Am Really Mad!"

It was a perfect evening. Dad and Mom and their two girls, ages 4 and 5, had gone into the California mountains for a weekend of rest and togetherness. In the warm glow of the campfire they sang songs, told stories of days gone by, and roasted marshmallows to a toasty brown. As the flames turned to coals and the coals to blackened embers, the happy family crawled into the tent for a quiet night’s rest.
I was on emergency surgical call that night at the Riverside General Hospital when I received a call to come to the Emergency Department at once. An ambulance was on the way with several seriously burned patients. I responded and prepared for the worst.
The first to arrive in the department were two little girls, the sweetest little things one could ever imagine. Though burned over much of their bodies, they were polite, they were cooperative, and they were so quick to express their thanks for our care—even when we poked them with intravenous needles, shoved tubes down their throats, and cleansed and dressed their wounds. Never had I witnessed such beautiful, well-behaved children. The father and mother had also sustained burns, but theirs were not nearly as extensive.
2012 1502 page28The story unfolded: after the campers turned in for the night, a wind came up, fanning the dying embers into flames and sparks. One of those sparks evidently landed on the tent, which instantly became a flaming inferno.
In the days that followed, these adorable little girls gradually transformed from pleasant, expressive, thankful dolls into unrecognizable, fearful, screaming, resistant victims of unending pain, seemingly endless dressing changes, and other necessary invasive procedures. To make matters worse, healing wounds slowly turned those smiling faces into scarred, monster-like masks that threatened to turn away even the most charitable well-wishers.
Why, I often prayed, did God allow this to happen—to good people enjoying a pleasant time of rest and recreation?
Through the ensuing years I have, when dealing with pain and suffering, consoled myself by “excusing” God for letting things happen that He could well have prevented—trusting that He was wiser than I, but failing to place the blame where it truly belonged.
Putting the Blame Where It Belongs
I was in a big box store making a purchase. The price I was charged was far above the cost of manufacturing and marketing. It was not right, but I brushed it off as just the way business is done these days. A few minutes later as I was driving home, I was waiting at a crosswalk while pedestrians rushed across the street in front of me. Among these was a woman with crippled arms and legs, anxiously rushing along with the crowd before the traffic. The epiphany hit: somehow these two apparently unrelated events came together and filled my mind with an anger I had never before experienced. No, not at the clerk in the store, not at the impaired woman struggling to get across the street, but at Satan, the real culprit, the one to blame for all of these tragedies, these injustices, these terrible things for which we usually blame God—if not by word or even thought, then by implication. Suddenly it became so plain to me—it is not God who is to blame. No! Not even for permitting what He could prevent. The blame rests squarely on the devil himself.
Yes, I was mad! And I am still mad. Really mad!
Attacked on Every Side
In my anger I recount a few of the many terrible tragedies the citizens of this world experience. I think of Satan’s attack upon marriage and the home, the very foundation of society—and the pain we experience in broken homes and broken people, in our children growing up without a united family or with no family at all, and in the incompetent and aged stashed away in “retirement” and nursing homes everywhere, often forsaken and alone. I think of the struggles of sexual disorientation and its many varied consequences, not the least of which are the sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. From my perspective as a physician, each of these represent real persons with real names suffering real pain—often through no fault of their own.
I think of how the devil has brought us to a point where violence is described by the Journal of the American Medical Association as the number one health concern, not only in poverty-stricken areas of the world, but in the Western world as well; violence that occurs in the home, in our schools, in the streets of our cities, even in rural areas. Violence of tribal conflicts, and violence of war that occurs on every continent—and everywhere, fearful, helpless, hopeless, hurting people! I have seen this violence in Cambodia, in Rwanda, and in the streets of the city where I live and work—no, not to some faraway detached strangers, but to real and often innocent victims with real personalities, real names—real people whose stories I could tell.
My thoughts turn to the pain and suffering suffered by so many in our society that experience contagious disease; chronic, crippling disease; lifestyle-related illness, disconnected from the power to change; genetically transmitted disorders—people caught between the desire for death and the fear to go there. It is my honor and privilege to minister to some of these real human beings, brothers and sisters in battle, to witness their pain, to experience their successes and failures, and to share a word of encouragement, a wisp of hope from time to time.
I cannot overlook Satan’s attack upon spiritual truths and his success in making religion one grand free-for-all battleground, with many professing to love their neighbor but hardly enough doing so—many failing to connect with and understand the love of God, His desire to rescue us from this mess down here, and the price He paid to accomplish it. I cannot overlook the fact that people have been duped into believing this loving God could even think of such a thing as burning the creatures of His own creation in never-ending fires of torture—and the natural fallout of such fallacies.
Need I go on? Many other things might be mentioned, things that hurt real people just like you and me. Can you see why I am mad? really mad? This isn’t the world God created it to be. Someone is to blame—but it’s not God!
True, Satan has managed to sell himself as a mythical impersonation of evil or an angel of light, and to paint our loving, Creator God as the tyrant responsible for all the terrible things that happen to us down here. But that does not change who he really is, or the motives that drive him—and those fallen angels and people he has won as accomplices in his relentless attack on God and His creatures!
Let’s place the blame where blame is due. Satan has blamed God for all of this, and we have, for the most part, accepted his claims and permitted him to play his “games” without a whimper on our part.
My anger does not usually include the people of this world who do evil things. They are slaves of the devil, born into a world of slavery. Yes, God has provided an escape hatch through Jesus, who died in our stead that we might be freed. And though none have an excuse for failing to believe and accept that freedom, my heart can often resonate with them, for I too sometimes find myself struggling against his wily temptations.
No Longer Passive
I am mad at Satan. Even after seeing with his own eyes the consequences of his rebellion, he still continues to deceive people and lead them down the path to death. It would be one thing if he didn’t know better, but since he has seen the results, what possible excuse can he have for his evil deeds?
When, at the very end of time, every intelligent being in the universe kneels before God and declares Him just, acknowledging that God is everything He claims to be, some will choose not to repent and be restored. I suspect my heart will ache too—for Satan and those so foolish as to join him in his rebellion against God. But can you imagine how God will feel as He performs His final act, His “strange” act—upon those He still loves?
Never again will I be able to look at the results of sin all around me and ignore it, or willfully take part in it. No! I have seen a taste of Satan’s ire. From now on, I will no longer be satisfied to passively wear the armor of God as my protection against the ammunition of the devil, but, as an active soldier of Christ, I must accept my role in bringing about his defeat. What about you?
Walter Thompson is a physician who writes from Burr Ridge, Illinois. This article was published January 19, 2012.